|Irish Book Bag
Heather Terrell Discusses Her Latest Novel:
Brigid of Kildare
By Martin Russell,
Irish American Post book editor
How did you become a writer?
A: I thought I'd begin by addressing your questions about how I started
writing. I didn't start out as a writer, although I have always been a
voracious reader of all types of fiction. I did my undergraduate work at
Boston College, with a major in History. Afterwards, I graduated from the
Boston University School of Law. For the 10 years that followed, I practiced
as a commercial litigator at two of the country's premier law firms and
for Fortune 500 companies.
Q: How do you get ideas for your stories?
A: The genesis for my writing — my first book The Chrysalis,
at least — began with a question that a dear friend and fellow lawyer posed.
She asked, "Would I ever decline to represent a client on moral grounds,
even though the client had a solid legal basis for the position it wanted
Her question stayed with me, and over time, a story grew in my mind.
It formed the basis for my first novel, which has at its heart the tale
of a young lawyer who's been asked to represent an art auction house against
claims that a mysterious Dutch masterpiece belonged to the plaintiff's
father, who had been killed by the Nazis.
Yet, once the story idea took hold, this novel did not emerge overnight.
In fact, it took 10 years to write this first book because I wrote it in
fits and starts while practicing law. This included nearly a year of editing,
at the behest of my wonderful agent. Once we felt the novel was ready for
submission to publishing houses, I was extremely fortunate that Random
House wanted to publish it - and two subsequent novels, including my latest
of Kildare. You can imagine my delight!
What does a writer do to develop a theme?
A: As I embarked onto my second historical suspense novel, The Map
Thief, I became intrigued by the notion that an object - be it a piece
of artwork or an artifact - can tell a story, one that answers a historical
mystery, as well as divulges something personal and secret about the creator
of the object. So, when I needed to choose a topic for my third book, I
cast about through time seeking another object that could tell a multi-layered
tale. In so doing, I learned about the lost Book of Kildare, an
early medieval Irish illuminated manuscript from the time of St. Brigid
so beautiful it was described as "made by angels."
As I delved into the research, it seemed that this Book of Kildare
might reveal much about the why the Virgin Mary's portrait first appears
in remote, early medieval Ireland and how her image and persona — indeed
women's roles — were shaped by society over time.
This formed the impetus for my third book, entitled Brigid of Kildare,
which is the story of a strong, unconventional Brigid and the creation
of one of the world's most breathtaking — and innovative — illuminated
manuscripts, one that contains a hidden story about the powerful nature
of the Virgin Mary.
Q: Please describe what Brigid of Kildare is all about.
In my book, inspired by Brigid's unshakable faith and tolerance, Bishop
Patrick ordains her as Ireland's first and only female priest and bishop.
Followers flock in droves to her Kildare abbey and scriptorium. But the
Church, hearing rumors of this heretical and powerful woman, deems her
a threat to faltering Roman Empire and secretly sends a Roman priest and
scribe named Decius to collect proof of Brigid's apostasy.
As Decius records the unorthodox practices of Brigid and her abbey,
and her lenience toward gospels banned by the Church, he becomes intrigued
by her. Despite her upbringing as the daughter of royalty, Brigid has chosen
an ecclesiastical life and ministers to her followers with a warriorlike
So when Brigid assigns Decius a holy task — to create the most important
and sacred manuscript ever made, a book that may have rivaled the Book
of Kells — he finds himself at odds with his original mission. And when
a second papal envoy arrives to collect Decius's findings and bring him
back to the fold, the young priest faces the most difficult choice of his
life — one with profound historical consequences.
Q: How does Brigid of Kildare fit into your interests?
A: The topic of Saint Brigid and ancient Ireland was a natural fit given
my historical interests, my travels, and my ancestry. I had spent a fair
bit of time in Ireland over the preceding years, including several trips
to Dublin and a snowy New Year's celebration in Galway with my family in
And, my ancestry stemmed from Ireland; many of my ancestors immigrated
to America from Ireland in the late 1800s, primarily from the West of Ireland.
Certain relatives even claimed that our Joyce family tree is somehow intertwined
with that of famed James Joyce. Yet again, that boast could easily have
resulted from the Irish gift of gab.
Perhaps you can see why I wanted to tell the tale of a strong Irish
woman, one who shaped history in ways we might not have originally imagined.
Q: How did you uncover all the details for your story?
A: The research into Brigid of Kildare took considerable time
and effort, but was certainly no hardship. I took yet another trip to Dublin
and spent time at Trinity College studying its magnificent collection of
ancient manuscripts, including the breathtaking Book of Kells that
so inspired my version of the Book of Kildare.
On that trip, I passed many hours at National Museum of Ireland, examining
their amazing early medieval collection to gain information about the relics
that figure in Brigid of Kildare. I traveled out to Kildare to get
a sense of the landscape and the town, as well as the ancient site where
Brigid allegedly lived and worked and built her famous abbey. And I spent
countless hours reading history books and lives of saints and ancient accounts
to gather facts and voices from the time that Brigid — and Mary — lived.
The writing of Brigid of Kildare contained unique challenges.
As a lawyer trained with a near-slavish attention to detail, I always try
to get every historical fact perfect. Given that I was writing about the
fifth century, this presented certain hurdles. And I wanted to create an
appropriate voice for Brigid and Decius; no small feat for characters that
lived so very long ago in a world that it hard for us to imagine. In the
end, I had to remind myself that was writing a work of fiction, and surrender
— even if just a little bit.
Q: What’s next?
A: After a few rewrites with my terrific Random House editor, I finished
of Kildare. As with my other books, this moment contained both elation
and sadness. Although I was eager to share Brigid's story with others,
it was hard to say farewell to her. Brigid was such a fascinating and compelling
character, at least as I envisioned her. And, I hope, as you find her.
Once I finished Brigid of Kildare, I took a short, personal break.
But then, another story took hold in my mind. I now have a new, young adult
series coming out in 2011, beginning with a book entitled Fallen Angel.
And I have lots of other stories inside me, clamoring to be told.
Flier Recounts Wartime Dangers in Afghanistan
Major Hammond is a British Royal Marine pilot serving on an exchange
with the Chinook force at RAF Odiham. He has been deployed again to Afghanistan
to undertake the crucial role being played by the CH47 in combat. A book
on his experiences, Immediate Response (£10.78, Penguin, 336
pp.) was ghost-written by Claire Mcnaughton, whose husband is also a Chinook
In the words of writer Mcnaughton: It’s tricky times for the CH47 fliers.
In the summer of 2009, the first British Chinook was shot down. Nobody
died, but there are only so many ways you can bring an aircraft down from
the sky and put it on the ground, so I imagine everyone at RAF Odiham is
feeling the pressure of the ever increasing threat and won't want to be
losing another one of our £35-million assets that are so essential
on the Afghan battlefield.
But as Maj. Hammond mentions on page 125 of Immediate Response:
" Nobody wanted to lose a Chinook. There are another 12 blokes on a
Chinook. Imagine what happens when a Chinook gets shot down. We send another
one. It becomes a Chinook pile-up. Imagine how many casualties would be
on the ground. Is the area secure? How are we going to secure it? Are there
enough forces there to pick up the casualties? Potentially, it becomes
an enormous op. Dropping off more people are we going to secure a landing
site? Will troops have to fight into the town to secure a landing site
to pick up casualties? Bad juju. "
Let's hope it's not down to the inevitable 'Combat Darwinsim' he refers
to on page 25
" Among the Taliban, we can see combat Darwinism in action. The clever
ones are the ones that are left alive. They are getting smarter. The more
they observe us, the more they understand how we operate and think. They
know we have legal constraints and they can actively exploit the weaknesses
created by those constraints. The Taliban are targeting the Chinooks and
we are the ones taking the rounds. "
As Maj.Hammond echoes all the Odiham boys thoughts on page 257
" Our lives hang daily by a thread which we thought was as thick as
a three-metre strop but in reality was as fragile as a cobweb. It reminded
me of the IRA statement to Maggie Thatcher after the Brighton bombings:
‘You have to be lucky every day, we just have to be lucky once.’
This is more than just another 'I slotted him' war book and the threat
to the Chinooks in Afghanistan is greater than ever.
wrote this book so I am keen to try and get it out there. My husband is
a Chinook pilot (although not the author Maj. Mark Hammond). So it was
quite a journey having to delve deeply into a world where I normally bury
my head in the sand and pretend that he is not a war zone at all; but just
somewhere where his absences continually inconvenience me because usually
the kids are always sick and a domestic appliance blows up.
Indeed, to have to confront that he actual flies in the face of certain
death and that he’s not on a beach holiday was significant. For me the
threat to the CH47 force is now very real.
To some extent I can’t believe that a few weeks ago, a Chinook was shot
down. Especially after spending a year researching the significance and
impact of such an incident to be faced with it head on was shocking to
say the least. Fortunately, nobody died but I can’t help thinking this
is the just the beginning – at the end of the day there are only so many
ways you can land and launch a Chinook and those boots need to get on the
By virtue of being the wife of CH47 pilot, the serviceman involved gave
me rich, informed, candid content that they would have never trusted to
a journalist. So I believe, and the feedback from inside the force that
I have received supports this notion, the book we have delivered is genuine
and not an embellished, glorified look at the work in Afghanistan. But
it’s an honest and real account of the operational role and experiences
— Clare Macnaughton
Irish American Classics Published by Lens & Pen Press
Missouri’s Lens & Pen Press, a Springfield-based publisher, is publicatishing
a companion volume to Mystery of the Irish Wilderness, a 2009 Independent
Publisher Book Award gold medal winner. Brought together for the
first time are Bishop John Joseph Hogan’s two classic memoirs: On the
Mission in Missouri: 1857-1868 and Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir.
Edited by Crystal Payton, the book also provides extensive biographical
information on Bishop Hogan and historical context for each of the two
Raymond J. Boland, Bishop Emeritus of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese
and a native of Ireland, has written an introduction.
On the Mission recounts the young missionary’s eleven years on
the frontier of Missouri, through the Civil War. His first person accounts
of train wrecks, travel by handcar, horseback and riverboat, the Centralia
Massacre, and his arrest for violation of the "Test Oath" following the
War create a lively and personal picture of rugged frontier life, historical
personalities and events.
Readers discover the only first-person account of his Irish settlement
in the Missouri Ozarks, in the area now called the "Irish Wilderness."
While On the Mission ends when he first becomes a bishop, Payton’s
research follows him through his administration of two dioceses to his
death in 1913.
Fifty Years Ago portrays his childhood and education in 1830s
and 1840s Ireland. Momentous historical events contrast with a lively rural
upbringing and rigorous education. "I was born in the year of Catholic
Emancipation" (1829) he begins. Study for "the ecclesiastical state" at
the Croom School included day trips to participate in rallies by Irish
nationalist Daniel O’Connell. But all was not politics or school. John
Hogan acquired a rough and ready skill set from his rural Irish childhood,
which prepared him for his adventures on the Missouri frontier:
Riding was one of our favorite sports in those days. These fields, to
great delight of us youngsters, had a never-failing supply of lively,
well-ed donkeys, young and old. Old donkeys were not boys’ first choice
because of their vicious habits, of biting their riders’ legs and rushing
their riders against thorny hedges and stone walls.
A talented realist writer, Hogan’s accounts of life in Ireland and America
are keenly observed, poignant and at times delightfully humorous.
On the Mission in Missouri & Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir, (ISBN:
978-0-9673925-5-4: 224 pages, illustrated, price $24.95) is available at
many bookstores or through amazon.com. Copies can also be ordered from
the publisher, postage paid. For more information on this and other Lens
& Pen books visit http://www.beautifulozarks.com
Celebrates 125th Anniversary with Academic Look at Sport
As the GAA celebrates its 125th year, a new book from a University of
Ulster academic examines the role of the organization in the United States.
Games, Nationalism and the Irish Diaspora in the United States, written
by Dr. Paul Darby from Ulster’s Sport and Exercise Research Institute,
uncovers the origins of Gaelic games in the U.S in the late 19th century,
accounts for their subsequent development and explores the socio-economic,
political and cultural impact of the GAA in Irish-America.
In the year when the North American County GAA Board is celebrating
its 50th Anniversary, Dr. Darby said, "The role of the GAA has largely
been ignored in the considerable academic literature on the Irish experience
"The GAA in America played a significant role in the lives of many of
those who left Ireland in the late 19th century and beyond. It gave them
a sense of the familiar in otherwise unfamiliar surroundings. It provided
entry into social networks that allowed them to find work and somewhere
to live and it eased what could be a difficult transition from a slower
paced rural Irish existence to a frantic urban environment in the US."
The book, based on ethnographic and archival research carried out in
America over a six year period and part-funded by the British Academy,
also examines the relationship between US branches of the GAA and Irish
nationalism and shows that this relationship varied according to events
both in America and in Ireland.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, U.S. Gaels named their clubs
after popular nationalist figures, they engaged in fundraising for nationalist
organizations in Ireland, both militant and parliamentary and they saw
their involvement in the GAA as an extension of their nationalist politics.
The outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland saw these links re-intensify
with GAA clubs and officials providing financial support to organisations
such as Irish Northern Aid and galvanizing support in America for republicanism.
The research conducted by Darby, a senior lecturer in the School of
Sports Studies, details the ways in which the GAA in the US has become
increasingly de-politicised in recent years, reflecting broader transformations
in republican politics brought about by the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Slowing immigration from Ireland to America on the back of the Celtic
Tiger and the introduction of more stringent border controls in the US
following 9/11 have required the GAA to adapt in other ways in the same
Darby said that "the downturn in immigration over the last 10 to 15
years has seen a whole host of Irish organisations in America struggle.
The GAA has been no different. This has been recognised by those who are
so passionate about preserving Gaelic games and they are increasingly looking
to young Irish-Americans as well as children without any Irish lineage
to sustain these sports in the future."
The Irish Government and the parent body at Croke Park in Dublin recently
acknowledged the importance of Gaelic games in helping to maintain Irish
heritage in America by providing funding for facilities and youth development
programmes across the country. This should ensure that the GAA remains
vibrant and relevant in Irish-America and is fitting recognition of the
role played by countless volunteers who have, as Dr. Darby’s book shows,
invested so much time, energy and money in order to preserve and promoteGaelic
games in America.
Gaelic Games, Nationalism and the Irish Diaspora in the United States
is published by University College Dublin Press.
Sean McCabe on Midwestern Tour
A Good Deed & Other Stories is a series of 17 interconnected
short stories describing the growing pains of youngster Eoin Grady in the
fictional town of Baile in the Irish midlands. Set in the mid’70s, author
Sean McCabes' book charts his progress through the most typical events
of irish boyhood, such as a First Confession (that goes disastrously wrong),
being sent to sell programs at a GAA match, taking requisite, but hated,
piano lessons from the local nuns, periodic visits to relations in neighboring
counties and school tours to Paris
These are ordinary events, but somehow appear to be tinged with disaster,
leadiing readers to conclude that perhaps even the most ordinary of events
are not so ordinary after all. McCabe’s stories are told humorously and
are a fun read for anyone familiar with Ireland’s rural or small town of
McCabe was born in Co. Meath, earning a masters’ degree in English Litterateure
at Trinity College. He currently lives in New York and works as a professional
musician. McCable has issued four CDs with his band "The McCabes." Several
of his short stories have been published in Ireland’s Own, Ireland’s
Eye and other popular magazines.
In February, McCabe is making the rounds of Irish centers and other
Gaelic gathering locales for readings, singing and playing some jigs and
reels on his mandolin. He’ll also discuss the history of Irish literature
with special focus on famous short stories and novels. There is a cover
charge. For more details, www.mccabesband.com.
Sean McCabe’s Midwestern Tour Dates:
Wednesday, Feb 17: Kansas City Irish Museum & Cultural Center, 7:00p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 18: 0’Brien's Nine Irish Brothers, Lafayette, Ind., 9:00p.m.
Friday, Feb. 19: The Milwaukee Irish Cultural & Heritage Center, Milwaukee,
Saturday, Feb. 20: Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago, 6.30p.m.; www.irish-american.org
Saturday, Feb. 20: the Abbey Pub, Chicago, 10:00p.m. www.abbeypub.com
Winter Reading List
Compiled by Martin Russell
The Irish American Post book editor
A marvelous grab bag of winter reading delights has come over the transom
to the Irish American Post. A sampling follows.
An Irish Country Christmas, by Patrick
Taylor (Tor/Forge, $14.99 paperback).
It’s never too late for a delightfully good holiday read, regardless
of what the calendar says. Author Patrick Taylor takes his fans back to
the village of Ballybuckleboo, where Dr. Fingal O’Reilly and his young
partner Barry Laverty must deal with the sneezes and foibles of the locals.
The relationship between the physicians and their clientele is a study
in humor and compassion. Give this book as a gift to your congressperson
to demonstrate how a health plan should work. Taylor, born in Bangor, Co.
Down, and now living in Canada, has been a contributor to The Irish
An Irish Country Girl, by Patrick
Taylor (Tor/Forge, $24.99).
In Country Girl, Patrick Taylor provides the backstory to Kinky
Kincaid, the inimitable housekeeper for Dr. Patrick O’Reilly in the mythical
village of Ballybuckleboo. Kincaid is one of the many lovable characters
populating Taylor’s warm stories, making this book about her growing up
years especially inviting. It’s as if Ms. Kincaid is in the reader’s kitchen,
bustling up a pot o’ tea and some well-needed advice about life and love.
Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, by
Frank Delaney (Random House, $26).
Coming out in February, 2010, Frank Delaney’s latest missive again demonstrates
that he is a master of true wit and storytelling. Set in 1932, the tale
focuses on Ireland’s political turmoil as the young nation begins finding
its way. There’s plenty of romance, plus a gorgeous actress, venal politicos
and even a ventriloquist’s dummy to help move along the action. Delaney
is a Tipperary man, now living in New York City and Connecticut. With this,
his writing shows he never abandoned his roots.
The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club, by
Maeve Binchy (An Anchor Books Original, $14.95).
Want to write a short story? A book? Literary doyen Maeve Binchy’s
"how-to" is a fun way to try your hand at wordsmithing. She’s aided by
essays on the craft by author friends Marian Keyes, Carole Baron, Norah
Casey and Chris Bohjalian. Binchy contributes six new, gemlike tales to
the volume, demonstrating that hard work, patience and enjoying what one
does really pays off.
Close to the Floor: Irish Dance form the Boreen
to Broadway, edited by Mick Molonye, J’aime Morrison and
Colin Quigley (MacCater Press, $17.95).
Top names in the Irish dance world contributed their thoughts to this
academic look at the world of step-dancing and jigs. Donny Golden, Mark
Howard, Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain, Mary Nunan, Niall O'Leary and Micheál
Ó Súilleabháin are among the experts dissecting the
roots of Irish dance movement and how it has changed over the generations.
This is a must read for anyone involved in Irish dancing, particularly
teachers and company managers.
Captain Rock: The Irish Agrarian Rebellion of 1821-1824,
by James S. Donnelly, Jr. (University of Wisconsin Press, $35).
This study of one of Ireland’s many misadventures in revolt is a deeply
moving probe of the island’s ever-present nationalist sentiments and violent
ferment, this time over agrarian reform. The intensity of the movement
is a crystal ball, foretelling the upheaval about to come in post-Famine
Ireland. Donnelly, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,
is co-editor of Érie-Ireland magazine and author of numerous
other historical volumes on Ireland.
On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie,
and the Soul of the Port of New York, by James T. Fisher
(Cornell University Press, $29.95).
Fisher, a theology professor at Fordham University, touches behind-the-scenes
backstory that went into the making of the classic film On the Waterfront
with "boxer" Marlon Brando and "priest" Karl Malden. The crooked union
leaders, on-the-take politicians, fervent clergy and reformist dockworkers
come alive in this real tale about the fight over the soul of one of America’s
largest ports. Fisher ably brings it all together in his deeply informative
study of what made Budd Schulberg’s 1954 movie so resounding in its presentation
of real life.
All the Dead Voices, by Declan Hughes
(William Morrow, $24.99). Declan Hughes has a fascination with voices,
probably stemming from his 20 years as a playwright working in Dublin.
His stories always seem more lively when spoken by such strong characters
as his fabled private detective Ed Loy. The poor wretch is always on the
edge of more-or-less self-imposed doom, but Hughes masterfully allows Loy
to redeem himself one more time in All the Dead Voices. This is
crime novelizing at its peak.
Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem: Memories from
Family and Friends, by Karen Klausner Chute. (Wandering
Rose Publishing, $22.95)
After 23 years of her notes being packed away, Karen Klausner Chute
retrieved the taped interviews and a travel journal from a trip to Ireland
where she spoke with the famed Clancy and Makem musical families. This
treasure trove of laughter and emotion makes a grand read for any fan of
the famed musical group. This is probably the first full-length biography
of the fabled folk singers in such a moving format. Rich in conversation,
deep in personal insights, Chute performed a masterful job in relating
little-known vignettes of these men who set Irish music on the world stage.
Courage and Conflict: Forgotten Stories of the Irish
at War, by Ian Kenneally (Dufour Editions, $31.95).
Pulling together nine tales of Irish in battle, including Custer’s Last
Stand and the American Civil War, Ian Kenneally’s stories are of courage
and honor. Most of the stories are little known, from the Irish volunteering
for the Papal army of 1860s to stalking man-eating lions in Africa. Whether
well-known or almost lost to history, the exemplary devotion to duty of
Irish soldiers comes through again and again. Kenneally does a masterful
job in honoring these men.
Orangutan: The Story of an Irish Drunk in the Concrete
Jungle, by Colin Broderick (Crown Publishing, $14).
This is no book for the faint-hearted; but the gripping tale of addiction
and ultimate redemption is emotionally moving. Broderick, a New York
Times contributor and writer for Irish American newspapers, relates
how the traditional notions of craic just ain’t what they
used to be - particularly for newly-arrived Irish trying to find their
way in America. Now sober after what seemed to be a lifetime of alcoholism,
Broderick warns his readers "this is not a pleasant story." He wryly adds,
"And if you don’t like it, I don’t care. Stop whining and go write your
own damned book." Subsequently, read and learn.
Ireland Travel 101, by Patricia Preston
(Xlibris Corp., $23.99).
Authored by Pat Preston, Ireland Travel 101 explores Ireland’s
wide highways and narrow byways in amazing detail. Author of 15 books on
her native land, travel writer Preston certainly knows where to go and
what to do on the Emerald Isle. One of today’s foremost explorers of Ireland,
Preston encourages readers to begin their Irish adventure by planning well.
Her insightful tips on transportation, lodging, shopping and pricing can
save a lot of headache when finally on the ground. With her easy-to-read,
fun-to-follow format, Preston makes an exceptional ambassador, tour guide
and companion. This book is almost as good as having her in the passenger
seat. Keep this volume in your glove compartment when back in the Auld
The War for Ireland: 1913-1923, edited
by Peter Cottrell (Osprey Publishing, $28).
Vividly illustrated with many rare photos, historian Peter Cottrell’s
rendition of the Irish rebellion and resulting civil war brings alive the
terrible days of Ireland’s struggle for freedom. The book provides excellent
backgrounding on the numerous factions, both on the Irish and British sides,
during the extended conflict. The book concludes with a lively discussion
on how Britain and Ireland have come to terms with this past.